Nurses have given the government 30 days to address concerns regarding the working conditions at the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital or they will join other colleagues in protest. If this deadline is not met, the care of over 100 mental patients will be affected. The countdown started on January 7 when the association held initial talks with health minister Molwyn Joseph.
The ultimatum was issued after registered nurses at the mental home, located on Simon Bolivar main road, threatened to protest if their concerns were not addressed. Over 12 nurses are employed at the facility that currently caters to the needs of 119 patients – 77 males and 42 females. For over a week, the nurses have been doing extra work at the mental institution because established government workers have taken industrial action for the same reasons demanding that the government provides improved working conditions and better facilities.
Like the striking workers, the nurses are clamouring for proper bathroom facilities, outstanding allowances, locker space, improved working conditions and transportation, among other concerns. They are also complaining that they are forced to hold the strain while the other auxiliary staff are protesting. The healthcare workers called a meeting with the union yesterday to discuss their growing frustration. Karen Josiah, president of the nurses’ association, said that while her members are eager to join their colleagues in protest they will hold the strain for now.
She is also hopeful that the matter can be resolved through constructive dialogue. “We are saying within the 30 days we want to see some drastic changes. For example, many of the nurses are actually staying in their cars because the nurses station is so deplorable,” Josiah said. She added: “We don’t need to protest right now. I think the message is strong enough for them to understand the urgency of what is needed at Clarevue. You have given us a list…. hold sure to those promises.”
The union president also said that her members were reminded of their duty to care for their patients even in difficult circumstances. She also wants to assure the public that whatever actions will be taken, the safety and care of patients at the mental hospital will not be compromised. Over 100 government employees – established and non-established – are attached to the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital Some of them stopped working last Wednesday to press for equipment, improved conditions and outstanding overtime pay.
On the intervention of Prime Minister Gaston Browne, non-established workers, represented by the Antigua Trades and the Labour Union, returned to work on Thursday. Established workers, who are represented by the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association, are still holding out until all their demands are met. So far, the government has delivered a washing machine, a dryer, fans and other equipment to the hospital. Some workers were also paid outstanding overtime on Friday. The leading officials at the the institution have rejected OBSERVER media’s request for an interview. The health minister has promised to grant an interview at a later date.